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Opposition senator ousted, to face courts over PM's accusation

Spokesman Mam Bunneang speaks to reporters at the Senate yesterday after a vote to strip opposition Senator Thak Lany of her parliamentary immunity and eject her from the body.
Spokesman Mam Bunneang speaks to reporters at the Senate yesterday after a vote to strip opposition Senator Thak Lany of her parliamentary immunity and eject her from the body. Pha Lina

Opposition senator ousted, to face courts over PM's accusation

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Thak Lany was ousted from the Senate and stripped of her immunity yesterday, paving the way for the courts to continue their investigation of a case filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen accusing her of defamation and incitement.

Following a request from the Appeal Court last Friday, 46 of 61 sitting senators yesterday voted to relieve Lany of her responsibilities as senator and remove her immunity. The 11 opposition senators boycotted the session.

“We have paved the way for the courts. She is not a Senate member anymore, so the court can proceed according to the law,” said Mam Bunneang, the body’s spokesman.

The incitement and defamation charges Lany faces stem from a video that surfaced last month of remarks she made in Ratanakkiri, which suggested that Hun Sen was behind the July 10 murder of political commentator Kem Ley at a petrol station in Phnom Penh.

“And now [we] don’t know what Hun Sen thinks anymore, [all of a sudden] to go shoot Mr Kem Ley, Kem Ley the political analyst,” Lany appears to say in the grainy video.

The now-former senator was quick to defend herself, calling the video doctored, but has not been seen in Cambodia since. SRP president Teav Vannol yesterday said he attempted to call Lany after her denial, but was told by her family that she had left the country for medical treatment.

The case was filed earlier this month by CPP attorney Ky Tech. A similar complaint was filed against self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy for calling Ley’s murder “state-backed terrorism” in a Facebook post last month.

A statement from the Senate’s secretariat cited Article 104 of the Constitution, Article 8 and 9 of the law to elect senators, and sections 14, 42, 61, 64, 65 of the Senate’s internal regulations as the basis for yesterday’s actions.

Bunneang said Lany was given opportunity to apologise or present her case in court but refused to do either, which justified the vote to oust her.

“If she wanted to apologise, she should have done it in court, but she didn’t. Instead, after she was sued by Ky Tech, she said the video was edited,” he said.

However, Vannol said the senator’s removal over one alleged statement was undemocratic and a violation of her rights.

“Last week, Samdech Hun Sen kicked a football and it hit the crotch of a journalist. It was unintentional – but should he [Hun Sen] be sued too?” he asked, referring to a widely circulated video of the premier on a provincial trip last week.

Lany’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said given that her immunity had been lifted, he would now focus on gathering evidence to support his client’s case.

“The video clip that was spread online was submitted by a third party,” he said. “So, we will submit another version of the video clip and produce four to five witnesses as well.”

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